June 5, 2023
November's Lunar Eclipse is a great time to spot Uranus - but you'll have to stay up late

November’s Lunar Eclipse is a great time to spot Uranus – but you’ll have to stay up late

Mars continues to brighten through November, from magnitude -1.2 to magnitude -1.8, and its disk grows from 15” (seconds of arc) to a maximum of 17”. The first of the month at midnight sees it about 35 degrees above the eastern horizon and above and to the left of Betelgeuse in Orion. By the end of the month, around midnight, it will be about 65 degrees above the horizon to the SSE and above and to the right of Betelgeuse. Its motion is now distinctly retrograde – westward – and since we’re reaching it and also approaching the winter solstice when the north pole points us away from the sun (and towards Mars), it appears much higher in the sky. It will make its closest approach to Earth early on November 30, although its true opposition is six days later, as Mars’ orbit is more elliptical than ours.

Jupiter was in opposition at the end of September and draws the eye all night. My wife and I ran into a friend while we were walking the dogs and he buttonholed me to ask what was that bright star or planet he could see every night. I told her it was Jupiter and she said she had thought about it, but someone else told her it was too bright so it must be Venus. I pointed out, rather unnecessarily, that it would be difficult to see an inner planet outside of Earth’s orbit. I guess she will soon have another discussion with her friend about this.

Saturn has overcome its mid-August opposition. I have tried many times to see Titan, its largest moon, with 15 x 70 binoculars but without success. With 40x in a telescope, it’s easy, but not with binocs. I’ll keep trying.

On a separate topic, but one that will be important very soon after, daylight saving time ends on the morning of November 6th. put your clocks back an hour because the really big deal for November will be twice on the evening of November 7/8. Two minutes after midnight (hence the 8th) the moon contacts the Earth’s shadow and the eastern edge of the moon begins to see less and less of the sun. While there is a gradual darkening of this eastern end, at about 1:09 A.M. it hits the umbilical shadow and begins to enter full shadow. At 2:16 the moon is in full shadow. The average eclipse is around 3 am. of the 8th and the moon passes a little north of dead center through the umbra shadow. The moon can be nearly invisible in a deep lunar eclipse, its only illumination comes from sunlight refracted through Earth’s atmosphere, and the color can be anything from light gray to pinkish-gray to dark red.

During this deep part of the eclipse, any good pair of binoculars should show a faint star two or three moons in diameter in the upper left at about the 10:30 position toward the moon. If your vision is top notch, it may be visible to the naked eye. This “star” may appear a faint green color and probably won’t shine as bright as most stars. this is because it is the planet Uranus. It was pointed out to me at our last SCAC meeting in October that although the moon is coming out of the penumbral shadow, it is passing very close to Uranus, the best time to see Uranus is when it is not being washed out by a full moon. Nice catch, Bruce! The screenshot accompanying this article is from Stellarium and shows what we should see in the middle of the eclipse – around 3am. on November 8.

As a matter of interest, Uranus was discovered on March 13, 1781 by astronomer William Herschel, the first planetary discovery since Biblical times. According to Wikipedia, at that time the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were united under King George II. William played the oboe in the band of the Hanoverian Guards, but after some military setbacks caused by the French, he was sent to safety in England after his father’s death.

As Wikipedia states, “In addition to the oboe, he played the violin and harpsichord, and later the organ, composed many musical works, including 24 symphonies and several concertos, as well as some church music. Six of his symphonies were recorded in April 2002 by the London Mozart Players.

Herschel’s younger sister Caroline, who joined him in England in 1772, was also somewhat gifted. As well as accompanying him as a soprano soloist in concerts, she joined him in his astronomical project, the ground mirrors, worked as a recorder of his observations, discovered Messier 110 – a companion galaxy to the Andromeda galaxy – and discovered eight comets.

That makes us all feel like we’ve really accomplished something remarkable in our lives, right? Does anyone reading this actually play the oboe? Do you know someone who does? Have you found any planets lately? More about this remarkable pair can be found at: space.com/18704-who-discovered-uranus.html

The November club meeting open to the public will be Nov. 11 at the Sechelt Library at 7 p.m. The lecture topic will be posted on the Sunshine Coast Club website at sunshinecoastastronomy.wordpress.com/ .

#Novembers #Lunar #Eclipse #great #time #spot #Uranus #youll #stay #late

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